Comrade Debo Adeniran, a human rights activist and anti-corruption crusader is the chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL). In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to the fight against corruption, graft allegations against former governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, among other issues
What is your take on former Governor Babatunde Fashola’s defence on the controversial N78 million website design?
What concerns us more is the issue of suspected corruption embedded in the award and execution of contracts in the regime of Babatunde Fashola as illuminated by the award of this N78.3 million website contract. Every Information Technology (IT) person our organisation, the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), contacted put a bloated estimate of the cost of the website at about N6 million. We are not surprised that a contract that could have cost N6 million ballooned to N78.3 million, because that is a trademark of Fashola’s administration.
The website contract is an eye-opener and lending credence to the allegations of the ‘True Face of Lagos’ where most of the contracts awarded before 2010 were said to have been immorally inflated by the Fashola-led administration. If the former governor could be justifying the cost of his personal website, no matter what he uses it for, then there may be many more shenanigans to be unearthed by the relevant anti-graft agencies.
As a matter of fact, we see it as a way by which the former governor laundered at least N68.3 million out of the state coffers because the firm that put that website together had insisted that it only collected N10 million.
We are not supposed to be IT specialists, neither are we going to go deeper into the analysis of the content, but from the look of things, the use of the website is only opened to the initiates, so of what use is a N78.3 million website when several other developmental needs of the Lagos people he claimed he was ruling were begging for attention? It is absurd that whereas Lagos State has its own website, the MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) have their own websites; Mr. Fashola could still host another website, not as the Governor of Lagos, but in his own name with taxpayers’ money. This means that the entire N78.3 million was spent on the need of the former governor.
The website is not our priority because until the story broke out a few days back, many of the middle class elements that are major users of internet do not know that the website was existing, which means that the priority had been misplaced. Only God knows how many of such expenditures would have been incurred on the part of the government. The basis of our petitions was to get Fashola investigated of all alleged corrupt cases and if possible prosecuted.
But the former governor has described people like you and his accusers as pigs. How do you feel about this?
Mr. Fashola has mentioned pig, but we are no pigs. Since they are, we won’t mind fighting the pigs to get the pork.
The history of integrity and the outcome of such accountability would be the stain-removal that will remove the stain we could have gotten from fighting the pig. And until the pigs are brought down and we extract the pork, which is accountability we require from them, it would be protests without end. Truth is a muddy puddle and when the puddle is hit with the staff it splashes multidirectional.
It then behoves those who get stained in the wake to clean themselves up by rendering account of their stewardship on why they make supposed clean water dirty. If we must cut the pork out of the federal and state budgets, we shouldn’t stop at anything but get the pig out of the barn. This pig must be banished from our barn.
Your petition was seen as a means to stop expected federal appointment of the former governor into Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. Now, that Fashola has said that he is not looking for a job, are you satisfied?
Of course he is looking for a job because his body language has told us that he is looking for a job and the way he dances around President Buhari shows that he is trying to warm himself into the heart of Buhari. It has been rumoured from different quarters and that was how the rumour also started when he was to become a governor and eventually he became the governor. Fashola’s arrogance didn’t start today; it started since the day he was the Chief of Staff to former Governor Bola Tinubu.
This was how the rumour started that he would be his Chief of Staff and it eventually translated to the truth. In the second coming of Fashola as governor, we said because he was not accountable in the first term of office, he should not be allowed a second term, but he got it. So, we don’t want to leave any stone unturned. We are just informing the president that this man has a number of socio-political and moral questions to answer over the way he governed Lagos and until he discharges himself of such lingering questions, he should not be given a new appointment.
How do you see determination of President Buhari to probe those who have looted the nation’s treasury?
His anti-corruption programme so far has been so good. He has said that he is going to probe the immediate past administration. His decision is in the right direction and a way to start but beyond that he should look out pending petitions with the anti-corruption agencies and the ones with the presidency itself and ensure that every petition is investigated and reacted to in such a way that the petitioner will not feel let down.
That is the way by which the public will support the effort of government towards the eradication of corruption in Nigerian. He also needs to rework the books especially the legal criminal justice system that make it possible for corrupt people to delay the period of adjudication into their cases for as long as they wish.
There should be a time limit during which such hearing would be done and any lawyer that waste the time of the court should know that if it is discovered that it is a deliberate action, would be sanctioned. Any judge that allows frivolous applications when it is unnecessary should also be sanctioned. This means that there should be a commission that will oversee the adjudication into all of these criminal cases to ensure that no judge or lawyer participates in deliberate time-wasting venture.
What is your take on the setting up of Prof. Itse Sagay-led Presidential Advisory Committee on corruption?
With the calibre of people in the anti-corruption committee, we believe that the committee is a good pedestal to set a template for the regime to fight corruption. It is worthy to, however, note that it is not the absence of a good template or theoretical basis that anticorruption fight has been difficult in Nigeria; it is because of lack of political will, which also dampens the spirit of the public against the fight against corruption.
The committee, if allowed to do its duties without interference from any quarters, will confer credibility on the present regime and will also enhance the public confidence in the regime to fight corruption.
What is important is that the judiciary should be sanitised; the anti-corruption agencies should be strengthened with funds, equipment and training. There should also be protection and security of lives of the investigators and their relatives. If that is done, the anti-corruption agencies would be able to do diligent prosecution in the court of justice.
How would you react to the position of the General Abdulsalam Abubakar-led peace committee, especially that of Bishop Matthew Kukah that President Buhari should focus more on governance and not be distracted by his corruption fight?
They cannot constitute themselves into an alternative advisory platform unless Nigerians approve of them and the advice has been helping the aspirations of Nigerians. It doesn’t matter what method of strategy the administration adopted, no individuals or groups of individuals should dissuade the present government from examining the books of its predecessors. Nobody stopped the predecessors from probing the governments before them and if they didn’t do it, they would be creating more problems for everybody in this country.
They should also not forget that Nigerians voted for the change mantra of the present ruling party and they have to do everything they want to, even in fighting against corruption in clear departure of what the previous government has done.
Hitherto, the government that they are pleading on behalf condones corruption instead of fighting corruption by every action that they took during their regime. That should not be allowed to continue. So, the committee should not go beyond its bound. It is not speaking for majority of Nigerians; it is speaking for itself and those who set it up not the Nigerians.
Source: New Telegraph.